30 November 2008


One of the charming things about living in modern America is that we don't have to worry about what happens to our trash. People just come and pick it up.

It isn't somewhere primitive like Naples, for goodness sake.

At least that is what probably happens in your neighborhood. In my little nutty corner of California, trash is more of an interactive sport than waste disposal.

We have three cans: trash, recyclables and green waste. Simple. Except that the recyclable cans, with their treasure trove of bottles and cans, have become revenue sources for scavengers. Starting about 4:30 a.m. on trash day, you can hear people rooting around in the recycling bins.

I'm not putting these people down, far from it. People who get up before dawn to scavenge through sharp-edged tin cans in search of bottles with a 5 cent redemption value have nothing but my respect. One of these scavengers is in a wheelchair and has a complicated cart divided into three sections by pieces of chicken wire. God bless him. Obviously a man with no health insurance, a great work ethic and creativity to boot. It sucks that he isn't on the city council instead of pushing his wheelchair from house to house, searching for aluminum cans.

The early risers are so efficient that I want to tell the people I see when I leave the house at 6:30 a.m. "What is wrong with you? Don't you know the good stuff is gone by 5?"

On the flip side are the scofflaws. I don't know who the hell they are, but if I catch them, there is going to be hell to pay. These are the people who don't want to pay for trash collection, but instead drive around as soon as the trash truck has come by, stuffing their garbage in recently emptied cans.

Last week my trash can was 75% full within 3 hours of the truck coming by. This I do not appreciate.

The good thing about living here is that you can leave pretty much anything out by the curb and it will disappear. So far I have rid myself of a 2-year-old living Christmas tree that was badly potbound, a used shower chair for the handicapped, a terribly thin large tamale pot, and a clothes washer that had a sign in 2 languages "Works but leaks a lot of water," all by putting them out near the street.

It is interesting, seeing the little ecosystem that has developed around my trash cans. I no longer thing of my trash as waste, but rather a work in progress.


JCK said...

What a cool idea for a post.

That is really awful about the people coming by and dumping trash in your containers AFTER the trash has been picked up.

But, living here, I do love having the fun of leaving things out by the curb and seeing them gone within hours!

QT said...

There is definitely a curbside freecycle system going on in my town, too. Except for in the winter months, due to all the snow...but you wouldn't know anything about that...:)

Glennis said...

They're definitely in my neighborhood. We encountered a couple this Sunday, who said good morning to us nicely, while going through our can.

I just don't like the ones who are noisy at 4 AM.

Average Jane said...

I've seen people pick up some of the nastiest (moldy couch that had been in the garage), heaviest (zillion-pound vintage desk), most dangerous (rickety wooden extension ladder) items imaginable from my trash pile.

On the other hand, I have friends who live in a neighborhood with twice-yearly big trash pickup and we have a party to celebrate each year, sitting in lawn chairs in their driveway and playing Big Trash Bingo with items we see in people's truck beds as they drive by.

Anonymous said...

When our washing machine broke, my husband and stepdad put it outside, then immediately took the new one down to the basement.
That old one was GONE within 15 minutes.
No one took our old couch, which reclined at 2 ends. I was sort of surprised, though I might have felt bad for whoever took it, considering I gave birth on it and who knows how well that cleaned up?

Anonymous said...

We don't have any options except put it all together, and put it in the trash cans. And, I guess I live so far in the woods that instead of people re-filling my can, they just toss it on the side of the road....argh!

Also, while I"m here, can I hound you and your readers about my Christmas give away? Here are the links...

Mom~E~Centric (www.momecentric.com)

Mom is Teaching (www.momisteaching.com)

Education Uncensored (www.educationuncensored.com)

Count Mockula said...

My only problem with the scavengers is that, at least in our town, part of the recycling program is paid for by the recycling, so they're taking money from the city's recycling program.

Anonymous said...

Makes me want to search their garbage sack for an address or something. And then bring the sack right back to their door.

Anonymous said...

Makes me want to search their garbage sack for an address or something. And then bring the sack right back to their door.

J said...

That is totally interesting. I mean, the rummagers we get sometimes, but not so much the depositors. Crazy stuff.

There's a house down the street where they got a new bed, and put the old one out in their yard with a sign saying "free". Someone took the box spring, but the mattress has been sitting there for a few months now. It's rained a few times, and someone threw paint on it, so it's quite the mess. I wonder if it will be there forever? It's not a crappy house, either, so I guess the people who live there are just too cheap to pay to get rid of it.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes we will borrow our neighbors cans, but only after asking and before the trash gets picked up.
We make offerings o the neighborhood too, the last one was our old but comfortable dinner table.
We also have a charity that picks up every other month, and should all else fails there's always craigs list freebies or freecycle.

Issa said...

We pay twice as much here for trash service, because I insist on having recycling, which they don't mandate.

But oh do I miss the curbside pick-up that happens in LA. When we moved, we put out a couch on the edge of the lawn. We got charged by out HOA for the eyesore and then had to pay $50 to have it removed by the trash company, after it had been rained on. I was shocked that no one took it. Denver is a strange, strange place.

Project Christopher said...

I'd love to see one day that you posted the following:

"Yesterday morning I finally caught the scofflaws that fill my trashbins after they've been emptied. I video taped them doing it and then followed them back to their home. Last night around midnight I took my 75% full trashcans to their place and dumped them unceremoniously out on their front yard. I left the tape on their front door step with a note that read 'Watch this and keep your shit out of my trashcans F-ers!'"

yeah, I can be vindictive... in my mind.... :)

Green-Eyed Momster said...

I'm speechless. I had no idea!
The wild animals get into ours here, they aren't into the recycling can much.
I'm shocked that people would actually dump their garbage in your can. Can you bring it to the police and have them track down who's doing it?
Wow, some people are very annoying. That's unbelievable.
I can't stop shaking my head!!


Ericka said...

wait. trash depositors? that's... kinda nuts.

but, i LOVED amensty day in my old neighborhood. it was like a giant street fair and i found some of the COOLEST stuff! so so fun!

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